Food is Your Friend, but The Hikers are too
At the luxurious Hostel, Top Of Georgia, we were welcomed with a hot shower, clean laundry, and complimentary coffee that was brewed freshly all day in the living room. I stayed in there all day, drinking coffee, reading, and writing. I had about six cups of coffee that day, a total relapse from going over a week in woods without any caffeine. We bunked with several other hikers that night, and met this awesome person who really earned his trail name, Chef, the night we were there.
We get to the Hostel and we’re informed by the staff that anything in the refrigerator and Hiker Box was for all to use and take as they please, and Chef took full advantage of all the food he could find to whip up a delectable three course meal for all the hikers lucky enough to be rooming with him that night. He made us scrambled eggs with cheese, mixed with freshly sliced onion, tomato, and cucumber, presented as an amorphous frittata like dish. Just as we finished devouring that, he pulled fluffy cinnamon buns out of the oven and tossed one on my plate, which I promptly gobbled down. And he didn’t stop there. For the third course he whipped up homemade granola, runny hot fudge, and sprinkled graham cracker all over chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. He was on fire. He moved with such grace and precision around the kitchen as other hikers watched in awe. He talked fast and cooked fast, every movement having a purpose. Formalities weren’t forgotten as Muffin Man and I got up to do the dishes immediately after gorging ourselves. Chef was truly enjoying himself, and his charismatic persona electrified everyone in the room. It was beautiful.
I slept terribly that night, as I had to share a room with quite possibly the loudest snorer on the face of the Earth. I never got his name but his trail name should be Snorlax. Try making the loudest snoring noise you possibly can, then multiply that by seven and you’re roughly in the ballpark for how loud this man was snoring. I never wanted to punch someone in the face more, but I incredulously practiced moral restraint and picked up three hours of sleep.
The next morning we got back on the trail with a vengeance. Just as we were about to set off from Dick’s Creek at about the seventy mile mark, a jeep pulls up on the road behind us and drops off three hikers whom Muffin Man and I had ran into previously on the trail, Q-tip Shaggy, and Whiplash.
“Hey guys!” I called with a smile on my face. I was instantly reminded of the night we spent together at Sassafras Gap. Muffin Man and I had hiked thirteen miles that day. When we found them at the campsite already eating their dinners, I set up my tent and Muffin Man set up his hammock and we ate with them. As I zippered myself in my sleeping bag, turned off my head lamp, and snuggled up in the fetal position that night, I heard a coyote howling in the distance. Then, several more howls followed from the mountains all around us, all at varying degrees of pitch and distance. Everyone was still awake, but no one said anything. I was spooked and simultaneously mystified by their howls, as it was a stark reminder that I was sleeping on a mountain in Georgia, not in the isolation of my warm bed.
We walked with Q-Tip, Shaggy, and Whiplash eleven miles through meandering Rhododendron tunnels and up seemingly endless hills to Muskrat Creep shelter, which lay just past the Georgia/North Carolina boarder. We made sure to stop for pictures and soak up the milestone over a lunch of power bars, candy, and jerky.
At Muskrat Creek shelter we procured two more members for our group, Bambi and Eazy, as they agreed to night hike two miles with us after watching the sunset together from the mountain’s peak. A sunset that enchanted me into a grinning countenance and even provoked laughter. It was a heady example of how beautiful this world is, as the sun’s rays glimmered and it’s orbicular shape sunk below the rolling mountains in the distance. Still enchanted by the view, we picked up our packs and the night hike was on.
Novel experinces always evoke strong responses in our psyche, for better or worse. As I marched through the darkened forest, following the light of my headlamp and the boots of Muffin Man in front of me, I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones-esque expedition through the wilderness. I looked all around me but heard only the obscure noises of the AT’s nocturnal fauna. The group stayed close together, in a single file line, stumbling over protruding root systems and rocks shimmering with mica reflecting on the moonlight above us. We set up camp in the dark and ate around a fire, planning the next day’s hike.
Though I resupplyed a couple days ago at Hiawassee with what I thought was at least five days worth of food, I found myself fresh out of oatmeal and snacks two days later, having only a couple dried dinners to work with until we reached Franklin. My appetite skyrocketed the second week on the trail, taking me by surprise as I discovered the endless munching of “Hiker Hunger”. But I wasn’t worried yet. As I woke up to the sound of the stream at Betty Creek Gap, nestled in the shade of the Rhododendron around us, Q-Tip proposed the idea of ordering some large pizzas for our group once we reached the Forest Service road, roughly thirteen miles northbound. This promise of pizza provided powerful incentive to trudge through the mountains that day; daydreaming of sinking my teeth into hot, cheesy, greasy deliciousness periodically for the next five hours filled me with vigor.
Once at the Forest Service road, We soon realized Dominos doesn’t deliver that far out from Franklin. But that didn’t damper our hopes. We wanted some damn pizza. Bambi, Eazy, and Muffin Man hitched a ride into Franklin as the rest of the group and I sat by the road watching their packs. Their return would bring the promise of hot pizza.
We sat and watched cars go by, followed by an Edy’s Ice Cream truck that made me salivate. We fantasized about the idea of the truck miraculously breaking down, freezer shutting off and all, forcing the driver to give us spoons and dig into the creamy sweetness and saturated fat that lay within. It wasn’t to be, but the group did return, toting seven medium pizzas from Little Caesars (one for each of us), a two liter bottle of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, and three bags of marshmallows. I ate seven slices of sausage and pepperoni, and gave one away to a thru hiker that humbly came passing through the service road. I was surprised with myself. I ate seven slices of pizza in about twenty minutes. What else am I capable of? The absurd question made me laugh at myself and I was happy. I had to take a picture to remember the moment lest I ever forget. I had made some friends along the AT. Things were looking up.
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